March 04, 2019

What is fluency?

I was asked to participate in a small scientific study about polyglots and multi-linguals. There were a few interesting questions in it (and a few questions that I've been asked many times before) so I thought I'd write an article sharing my answers:

What is fluency?

It's a difficult question. I think fluency is a moment when you've reached critical mass in the target language when it comes to speaking and understanding. Meaning you can understand 90+% of what is said fluently (you don't have to necessarily understand every word, understanding what is said is enough) and you can fluently transform 90+% of your thoughts into the target language (not necessarily exactly as a native speaker would, but correctly using your own words).

The 90+% is just an estimate and I would have to think about this more.

Reading and writing is not taken into account.

How do you go about choosing a new language?

It's usually related to charismatic people (past or present) that make learning the language extremely interesting. This can be anything from a romantic relationship to meeting a very charismatic native speaker of the language or reading about Julius Caesar.

Are there occasions, where you feel like another person, given the language you speak?

No. I believe that if a person speaks a foreign language really well, that person can bend the language around their personality and not let the language bend their personality.

Would you consider going to language classes once or twice a week in order to learn a language?


Would you consider yourself as a more of a self-taught learner or do you prefer the instruction of language?

A good instructor is an absolute gem and very rare to find. I prefer a good instructor of course, but as they are so rare, I am a self-taught learner.

I prefer to learn alone.

Has your education played a decisive role in your language choices?

Very restraining. As soon as I 'have' to learn something I do everything in my power to avoid it.


  1. Hi, Vladimir.

    You said that you prefer to learn alone because it's so rare to find a decent instructor. That's understandable, but do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

    1. Hi Elijah. I was just thinking about this today. I considered myself an extrovert before, but then someone publicly labeled me an extrovert and from that day I started being much more introverted. Really interesting.

  2. I believe the language courses are a waste of time and money too. I mean if it's a bigger group, the weakest link is a major slow-down, but going there alone is no fun. Plus one hour a twice a week is nothing.

    I speak from my personal experience. I started learning German at the age of 8 or 9 and I haven't surpassed a B1 level to this day (more like A2 active, B1 passive) I started learning English by myself in high school and it only took me 3 years to give my teachers a run for their money. Ofc it took way more time to refine my skills, but I think I'm at a decent c1-c2ish level now and the next step would be to live in the US or Canada or something.

    I mean what good are the courses if you end up doing most of the grunt work by yourself? On the other hand I'd be willing to take the money for teaching any day. :)